Last Updated 16 December 2021

Djibouti is a small country located on the horn of Africa and bordered by Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

The Republic of Djibouti is a semi-presidential system in which legislative power is shared between the executive branch and parliament, the National Assembly.1 The President of Djibouti, Ismael Omar Guelleh, has been in office since 1999. While elections are held regularly for the presidency and national assembly, the government uses authoritarian means to limit the influence of opposition, including denying recognition to opposition parties or pursuing spurious criminal charges against opposition figures.2

Around 97% of the population identifies as Sunni Muslim. Citizens are officially considered Muslims if they do not specifically identify with a faith; there are consequently no figures available on the number of atheists in the country.3

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

Islam is the State religion, according to Article 1 of the Constitution.4

Although the Constitution and other laws and policies protect the right to freedom of religion or belief, and the right to freedom of expression, these rights are not always respected in practice.

The government is closely involved in administering and overseeing religious affairs in the country. The Ministry of Islamic and Cultural Affairs exercises authority over all Islamic matters and institutions, including mosques, religious events, and private Islamic schools. Imams are considered civil service employees of the Ministry. In 2014, the government passed a law – presented as a counter-extremism measure – requiring the transfer of all mosque properties to itself and requiring pre-approval of all Friday prayer service sermons.5;

The president is required to take a religious oath at inauguration; other government employees are also required to do so, such as magistrates, the presidents of Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Chamber of Accounts, and the inspector general of state. While there is no penalty established by law, it remains an official custom written in the Constitution for the president of the country and required by law for others. No legal provision exists for non-religious oaths or affirmation.6

Education and children’s rights

The state school system is secular. However, students are required to complete a civic and moral education course, based on Islam, in public schools across the country.7

In addition, there are a number of private Islamic schools in operation in the country. These schools are jointly managed by the Ministry of Islamic and Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Education. There are also separate religious schools which are administered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which follow a curriculum set by Saudi Arabian authorities.8 Djibouti and Saudi Arabia have close ties, and the two countries cooperate closely on political, cultural and educational issues.9

Family, community and society

For matters of personal status, Muslims must go to family courts who apply elements of civil law (based on the French civil code) and Sharia law. Civil courts address the same matters for non-Muslims.10
A non-Muslim man may marry a Muslim woman only after converting to Islam. According to the Family Code, “impediment to a marriage occurs when a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim.”11

Gender-based discrimination

A number of provisions in the 2002 Family Code discriminate against women in family matters, through the application of Islamic law principles. For example, women have a right to inheritance, but in many cases receive less than men. Women can only file for divorce if they can provide evidence of injury, or if they renounce their financial rights. Polygamy is also permitted.12; The Code also requires the obedience of wives to their husbands, stating that “the woman should respect the prerogatives of the husband as head of household and must obey him in the interest of the family.13 In the original French: “La femme doit respecter les prérogatives du mari en tant que chef de famille et lui doit obéissance dans l’intérêt de la famille.”

Even though traditional harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation are banned by the Family Code and the Criminal Code, according to UN Special Procedures, these practices continued and were “firmly entrenched in rural and nomadic communities.”14See CERD/C/DJI/CO/1-2, para. 20.

The Penal Code (2011) criminalizes abortion (Article 447-450) apart from where it is necessary for “therapeutic purposes” (a term which is undefined). A woman who attempts an ‘illegal’ abortion is liable to 5 months imprisonment and payment of a fine, while a physician or health professional who is found to regularly carry out abortions may be subject to up to 5 years imprisonment.15

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Although freedom of expression is protected by the constitution, all media sources in Djibouti, including newspapers, television stations, and radio, are owned and controlled completely by the state. Journalists and others who attempt to share independent news are harassed and punished.16

Open discussion of political matters is impeded by restrictive laws against defamation. The government reportedly monitors social media and conducts surveillance on perceived opponents.17

Freedoms of assembly and association are nominally protected under the Constitution, but are not respected in practice. Civil society organisations and activists in Djibouti experience frequent violations of their right to associate freely.18

Support our work

Donate Button with Credit Cards
whois: Andy White WordPress Theme Developer London